Monday, February 25, 2013

Maps, part VIII

It has been a long time since I've done one of these posts, but as it turns out, these days I have even less time for map-making than I do for miniatures-painting. However, here at last I have enough maps to make another collection worthwhile. As always, please don't mistake these for real history!

First up, a look at a world where a natural disaster devastates the early United States:
From A House Built Of Flotsam: Early American Government and the Great Wave by Brewster Rogers (2006):

"At approximately 7:00 on the morning of May 17, 1786, Captain Harrington of the British merchantman Nancy, bound for Calcutta, noted a pillar of clouds or dark smoke to the southwest, in the direction of La Palma Island, one of the westernmost of the Canaries. About half an hour later, the ship was caught by an enormous swell, described by Captain Harrington as 'larger than any man on board had ever seen, and arising from a calm sea.' Harrington and the crew of the Nancy had been among the few to observe the eruption of the Cumbre Vieja volcano, and among the first to encounter the resulting poseidonic wave [1]...

"In recent decades, geologists and oceanographers have identified the proximate cause of the Great Wave: a lateral collapse event occurring on the westernmost flank of the island, which sent almost 100 cubic miles of rock plunging into the Atlantic ocean. Like a tiny stone thrown into a still pond, the ripples spread outward--but in this case, the ripples were poseidonic waves up to fifty feet high...

"Much of Europe was shielded by the eastern Canaries, though areas of northern Spain, northwestern France, western England, and Ireland all experienced heavy damage. Areas of coastal West Africa were devastated as well. Still, it was across the Atlantic that the Great Wave would be felt most keenly...

"Based on reports from survivors, the first waves reached the south end of Nova Scotia at approximately 8:30 a.m. local time. Points south were contacted over the course of the next three hours, with parts of East Florida not being reached until almost noon. To observers at the time, contact must have seemed terribly capricious, with some areas shielded by some nigh-imperceptible quirk of the coastline, while others suffered even greater damage from waves funneled into bays and straits..."

"Boston was devastated... Much of Connecticut was shielded by Long Island, even as the Eastern Shore protected Baltimore and the Upper Chesapeake... New York City did not escape unscathed, but the damage could have been much worse. Philadelphia itself was spared, but Delaware Bay was choked with debris that took weeks to wash ashore. The Tidewater areas of Virginia, the most densely populated area of the state, was also the most badly damaged... All up and down the eastern seaboard, the same pattern of destruction was repeated. It was an event that could not help but leave a stamp upon a fledgling nation and its unwieldy government...

"Even before the Great Wave, there had been a growing dissatisfaction with the Articles of Confederation. In the aftermath of the disaster, as the helplessness of both the affected states and the Confederation government became clear, the 7th Confederation Congress, under the leadership of its President, John Hancock, began work on a new constitution--one which would vastly expand the powers of the central government..."

[1] TTL name for a tsunami--named for the Greek god of oceans and earthquakes.

Quick version: the Cumbre Vieja volcano goes off in 1786; a massive tsunami devastates the United States. The magnitude of death and destruction is enough to put a bit of a wrench into American demographics; while there is a general drive to settle further west, the country can't really support expansion on the scale of OTL--the U.S. may eventually cross the Mississippi, but probably won't reach the Pacific. The "Departments" are the result of an urge to consolidate and centralize--the states still technically exist, but the Departments end up being the main units of federalism. The capital is New York--parts of it, including Federal Hall, weren't too badly damaged, and nobody really felt like building a brand-new capital in some Potomac swamp when there was so much rebuilding to do...

Next, a quick look at a world where Constantinople Istanbul is known by another name entirely:
This map shows a few of the major tourist attractions in the Old City of Miklagard. Backstory is a little hazy, but at some point an unpopular Emperor gets deposed by the Varangian Guard, who end up running the Empire for a while through a series of puppets. While this state of affairs lasts only a few centuries, it does leave a lasting impression in the languages of northern and western Europe... and so, when rich Aenglisk-speaking tourists from the Westlands book their lyftship flights for a vacation on the Golden Horn, they arrive at Miklagard Lyfthofn. (Even if the terminal also has signs posted in Greek and Kypchak.)

A world where the Americas are discovered by a more northern route, showing some misconceptions of early cartographers:
From Maps Through The Ages, Cecille Frampton, 1973.

"Although settlement proved infeasible for the Norsemen, sporadic contact continued up through the end of the fifteenth century, when a number of explorers in more southerly countries began suggesting that the riches of the East might be more easily reached by sailing west, and that the rumored "Vine-land" might provide a convenient stopover point. As a result, many of the early navigators chose a more northerly route, and only gradually did the extent of the Hesperian continent become apparent. In fact, for a long time, North Hesperia was thought to be a part of Asia, as shown in this map from 1501, which optimistically places the "Great Cham of Tartary" somewhere in northern Mechicoe. See also the existence of a Southwest Passage connecting the Atlantic and Placidic Oceans--this may have been wishful thinking on the part of the cartographer, or it may have been based on second or third-hand accounts of trade routes across the Isthmus of Tecwanipec. Note that the Mayapan Peninsula, though misidentified as an island, is labeled as a source of spices, which may indicate that occasional trade was taking place between Europeans and native Hesperians at the time of the map's printing, or may be another misconception on the part of the creator, confusing Mayapan with the Spice Islands of the East. Information on the interior of the continent is similarly vague; for instance, the Great Lakes are shown as a single inland sea--source of the Mississippi and the Cabotto as well as the St. Brendan..."

And finally, a world where the Mongol Empire reached some places it never conquered in our world:

In our history, the Mongols under Genghis Khan reached the Indus River in 1221, in pursuit of the last Shah of Khwarezm, Jalal ad-Din. After his defeat, he sought asylum with the Muslim rulers of the Delhi Sultanate. In our history, they turned him away, and after knocking around northwest India for a bit he returned to Persia, where he was eventually murdered.

But what if Iltumish, the Sultan of Delhi, had not turned him away? What if the Mongols had continued to pursue their old enemy to the walls of Delhi itself, and the city had been sacked by the implacable hordes of Genghis Khan?

In this world, Iltumish chooses to take in the exiled Jalal ad-Din, and offers great insult to the Mongol ambassadors who demand that he surrender his guest. Dorbei and Bala, the Mongol commanders in India, send word of this to Genghis, who dispatches the famous general Subutai to reinforce them. Subutai handles the Indian campaign with the brilliance which in our world he demonstrated in the invasion of Europe, and Delhi is sacked by the Mongols in 1224. Jalal ad-Din is captured and sent to Karakorum in chains, but dies along the way.

Genghis Khan dies roughly on schedule, and as in our world, his son Ogedei succeeds him. Subutai's assignment to India means that his expedition against the Rus which culminated in the battle of the Kalka River never took place. Without that initial expedition, the Mongols do not launch an invasion of Europe during Ogedei's reign, instead mopping up the remnants of the Delhi Sultanate despite the determined resistance of Iltumish's daughter Razia Sultana. Differences in Mongol internal politics become apparent around the death of Ogedei--Genghis' grandson Batu has spent his time at court rather than leading armies across Russia, and manages to outmaneuver his rival Guyuk to take the throne.

As in our world, the Mongol empire eventually falls apart under its own weight, but in this world, one of the successor states, under a line of Khans descended from Subutai's grandson Aju, reigns from Ordapur, a new royal district of Delhi built after the sack of 1224. The Delhi Khanate reaches its apex under Sartaq the Great--though a later Khan does reach the Coromandel coast, his conquests are achieved only at the cost of much of the north to a resurgent Rajput dynasty, and his gains in the south are recovered by the Pandya kingdom of Madura during the reign of his successor...

Monday, February 18, 2013

HotT: Arabs vs. Byzantines

Well, the Byzantines have finally seen their first action. My brother and I were at home this weekend to help with Dad's ongoing move, but between bouts of schlepping boxes around, we found time for a couple of games of Hordes of the Things, featuring my new Byzantines with a couple of filler units vs. his Arabian Nights Arab/Almoravid army. Actually, both sides are in an incomplete state, as William is still lacking a good portion of his cavalry. Between that and the wizards, the two sides were pretty far from historical. The armies were as follows:

3 Knights (including the general)
2 Riders
3 Spears
1 Shooter
1 Flyer (a pair of angels from among my miscellaneous things)
1 Magician (Blandalf the Blue, another fill-in)

Magician General (The Grand Vizier)
1 Flyer (riding a magic carpet)
1 Rider (on camels)
5 Spears
3 Shooters

Game 1: I put my cavalry in the lead, with my Knight General front and center. He sent out his shooters. The knights thundered forward, the archers let fly, and my general pulled a Harold Godwinson. Oops. On to game 2...

Game 1. His archers are lurking in the shrubbery off to the left.

Game 2: This time, in an attempt to learn from my mistake, I formed the knights and spears up in a single block, hoping that the spears would keep the knights shielded from any pesky shooters until I got in charge range of his spears. My light cavalry were deployed off to the right in hopes of eventually getting around and causing mischief with his main line.

The new (improved?) formation

 Unfortunately, he deployed his three groups of archers on my left, where they managed to destroy first my leftmost spears, then the knights behind them, before the lines closed. Down two units, things weren't looking great for the Mizarenes. I sent in my flyers and magician to distract his archers, then charged his line. And this is where at least a little of my original plan was successful, as my knights in the center charged through and destroyed a unit of spears, creating a gap in his ranks.


From there, I was able to take advantage of the confusion (and some poor command rolls on his part) to start rolling up his line, with my wizard and flyer taking care of the archers on the left.

Arab lines looking a little ragged.

Meanwhile, over on the right, his riders and my riders remained stuck in an inconclusive scuffle:

This went on all game.

He managed to get some sort of line patched together in the center, but despite a couple of setbacks for me (and a brief threat to my general from his flyer) I managed to destroy the requisite six units required to drive his army from the field.

Spanish mercenary spears trying to hold off the attack.

I guess it's time to paint some more!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Keeping Byz-zy

Yes, I have been painting more Byzantines. What about the Bronze Age, you ask? Don't I have a convention game coming up in just a couple of weeks? Indeed--but for once I think I have all the troops  I'll need for that, so I won't have to be painting up until the last minute this time. (Though there are a couple of things I might add if I should happen to get to them before March 8.)

Anyhow, here's the latest from the Golden Horn:

More heavy cavalry. These ones have beards--I'm debating whether I should go back in and paint beards on the earlier ones too, but is anyone really going to notice? Probably not. These are the last of the heavies, at least for now--at some point I plan on doing a cavalry/knight general, but that will use some of the other figures from the Strelets set.

Also more light cavalry. There will be at least one more stand of these guys at some point. Also, though you can't really see it from this angle, since the relevant bits are on the back side, I trimmed off more of the baggy pants from these guys. The guy on the right got his sleeve trimmed a little too.

And finally, more spearmen, using a couple of the other poses from the Orion Byzantine Infantry (10th-13th centuries) set. Here's a closer look at them from the front:

Arranging the poses in two ranks ended up being a little awkward due to the poses involved, but the armored guys bracing their spears against the ground made more sense to me as a front rank, with the guys in the second rank sort of lunging over them. Still, it's a good thing they're all wearing helmets, because it looks to me like someone's going to get conked in the head sooner or later...

And there's the army as it stands now: nine units down, three to go! (Plus maybe a few extra bits here and there--I like my Hordes armies to have some flexibility...)

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Playtesting chariot rules

I've had some vague ideas for a set of rules rattling around in my head for sometime, but with Cold Wars only about a month away and me signed up to run a game with said "home rules," I decided that I had better actually try putting a few of my notions into practice.

Fortunately Dad was happy to oblige, and since I happened to have both a supply train and an appropriate fortress gate handy, we decided to use the "Convoy" scenario as the testbed for the rules. Based on the forces we had available, I set the Hittites to escorting the supplies to the fort, while various Egyptian units attempted to catch/intercept them. (Since the arrival times and placements for the intercepting player's units are random, there's a lot of variation in how this scenario plays out--sometimes the convoy has to fight its way through; sometimes it just has to outrun the enemy...)

Chariots in the lead, the convoy and escorts head down the road.

The basic mechanic of the game is that each unit has a short list of different actions (moves & attacks) that it can perform. Some of them are free, but some of them deplete its pool of "action points," which also serves as the unit's health or hit points. I was reasonably pleased with how this mechanic played out, though there's a good bit of tweaking to be done when it comes to numbers--move distances, action costs, and the size of the unit's action reserves.

As it happened, most of the Egyptians ended up deployed behind the convoy, and with a somewhat narrow table, there wasn't a great deal of room to maneuver around, so I was able to throw my infantry units out one by one as "speed bumps" while I brought my chariots back from the head of the column to the rear. Fortunately the scenario also includes a cavalry (or in this case, chariotry) relief force to sally out of the fortress once the convoy gets close enough--my infantry's action reserves were small enough that they were breaking pretty quickly, particularly under the superior missile fire of the Egyptians.

Some Egyptian archers turn up on the board edge.

Hmm, now there's a whole bunch of them...

The relief force.

Those Nubian skirmishers won't know what hit 'em...

The convoy is safe.

In the end, I was able to delay long enough that the convoy made it safely to the fortress walls. The game played fairly quickly (we went through about twenty turns in about an hour and a half) and I was mostly satisfied with how the basic rules worked. There were some elements that we didn't get to test (no really wacky melee situations, for example) and of course, the convention game will have a much broader array of unit types floating around. Missile weapons may need to be toned down a notch, and I'm thinking leaders may have an expanded role--at the moment, they just let you rally a unit back above half strength, but it would be nice to give them some sort of combat capability as well. On to Unnamed Rules 2.0!